New Contest Entry!

There is a new entry up on the Current Contest Page for the Neverland Contest. It’s a mermaid! She’s cool, so check her out!

Book: Petrosinella: A Neapolitan Rapunzel

Petrosinella: A Neapolitan Rapunzel
Giambattista Basile
Tranlator: John Edward Taylor
Illustrator: Diane Stanley
1981

This is a rather interesting version of Rapunzel. The end of the story is very different from the usual version (although it does end happily ever after). The witch is an ogress in this version and is keeping Petrosinella in the tower by a magic charm on some acorns. To escape, Petrosinella has to retrieve the acorns and take them with her. After successfully escaping, Petrosinella and the prince must flee from the pursuing ogress and Petrosinella saves them by throwing the magic acorns behind her (they turn into animals and kill the ogress). I have never read a version of the story quite like this and it is interesting. I wish I knew the history of it. Basile wrote it, but I don’t know where he heard it. My suspicion is that it is a local version, since it does feel like a folk tale.

The illustrations in this book are pleasing, but not terribly remarkable. The style is like that of many other picture books. The characters have wonderful embroidered outfits and Petrosinella’s hair is beautifully done. The ogress and her friend have a very eastern European, gypsy feel and rather remind me of Baba Yaga in appearance. The buildings and backgrounds are very Italian, which is perfect for the very Italian story. I like the pictures very much. They are appropriate for the story.

This is an interesting story. I would recommend it to anyone particularly interested in fairy tales from various parts of the world.

Book: The Nightengale

The Nightengale
Hans Christian Andersen
Translator: Eva Le Gallienne
Illustrator: Nancy Ekholm Burkert
1965

I love this story. It is so beautifully constructed. It has funny parts, poignantly sad parts, and wonderfully happy parts. The emperor is such a great character and I just love the little kitchen girl. This is a good translation. It is smooth, clear, and doesn’t lose the charm of the story.

The pictures in this book are wonderful! There are only small one-colour pictures on the pages with text, but between the two-page spreads of text are large beautiful full-colour picture two-page spreads. The pictures are wonderfully well done. The style is very reminiscent of Chinese art (they remind me of silk paintings) and the colours are soft, but beautifully done. They match the story wonderfully.

I very much recommend this picture book. It’s one of the best illustrated versions of this story I have ever seen and the children I read it to just adored it.

Book: The Twelve Dancing Princesses

The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Ruth Sanderson
1990

This is a beautiful picture book. It’s a lovely retelling of the story, although there are some loose ends that never quite get explained. The kids I read it to wondered about some of them. Nevertheless, it is a retelling of my favourite version of the story, so I like it a lot. And like most of Sanderson’s fairy tales it is written very clearly and smoothly. She uses fairy tale language and is careful to keep in the important pieces of information and the important storytelling techniques. I really like her telling.

The other major part of the book is, of course, the pictures. They are classic Sanderson and, thus, beautiful. The detail is amazing. My favourite thing is that each princess has two different outfits in the book and none of the outfits are the same (usually this story shows twelve girls in identical dresses of different colours). The girls look different too, which is nice. The dresses and hairstyles are very fairy tale-like and elegant. The backgrounds, particularly in the fantasy world the princesses visit, are amazing. I love the detail on the trees and leaves. Each page is beautiful.

I definitely recommend this picture book version of the story. It’s well told and beautifully illustrated.

A Puppy!

To console myself about the bird (at least a little), I’m taking an idea from Abby and adopting a cute virtual pet that I can play with! Isn’t she adorable?

adopt your own virtual pet!

Small Animals Falling On Me

I hate driving. Most of those of you who know me have probably heard this. I really hate driving. I do it all the time, but I hate it. Today I may have figured out why. I killed a bird today. I’m very very upset about this. What if the bird had a mate or chicks/eggs? What if it didn’t die instantly and suffered by the side of the road for a while? I feel awful that I couldn’t stop to see what happened to it. Normally when people kill animals while driving it’s because they run into or over them, right? Well, I’ve killed two animals with my car. This bird and a squirrel on the first time I ever drove by myself with no one else in the car, the day I got my license. I didn’t run over either one. Both fell out of the sky. The bird was flying past the car (after another bird that sucessfully made it across the road) and it turned mid-flight… right into my windshield. I was going 55 miles per hour. It hit my windshield with it’s head. I hope it died quickly! I feel awful. The squirrel was even worse. I was less than a block away from my parents house and it fell out of a tree onto the roof of my car. And bounced onto the trunk and then the ground. And died. I had to stop because I was so upset. Have you ever seen a squirrel fall out of a tree? Or, for that matter, a bird fly into a moving car? I mean, seriously! Is there someone up in the sky who finds it funny to throw small animals onto my car? If so, I would like to file a formal protest! I feel terrible about it. The squirrel died eight years ago and I still feel terrible about it! Hopefully no more animals will fall out of the sky onto me. I may have to start rethinking driving entirely if that happens. *sigh*

Book: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Susanna Clarke
2004

This was a very good book. It didn’t focus on the plot, although there was one, but rather on the various characters in the story and how they reacted to and influenced everything going on around them. The world that the story took place in was wonderful, very fleshed out (down to legends and forgotten folk tales) and as a result it felt delightfully three-dimensional. The characters were also very well done. They felt like very real people with real wants, fears, and reactions. Their interactions with each other were shown beautifully. It was a pleasure to read about them!

The way Clarke dealt with magic was fascinating. She focused on the importance of study and understanding what came before for much of the book, but then also stressed the shortcomings of such an approach. She set up a very real debate between simple study and actual practice of magic, giving each reasonable strengths and weaknesses. It was very interesting and that debate (which was very central to the story) was perhaps the most interesting part of the whole story.

I also found Mr. Norrell’s refusal to share magic with anyone, and the various issued raised by that, very interesting. His attempts to legally refuse anyone access to any books on magic and his near hysteria whenever any kind of magical text became remotely available to anyone else were an interesting touch to the story and his character. He really did feel like a stubborn old professor high in a tower hoarding knowledge!

Strange was and interesting character as well. The portrait Clarke paints of him as a somewhat fashionable young magician was appealing, but made it sometimes hard to trust him. This worked wonderfully as a counterpoint to Mr. Norrell. Arabella Strange, Mr. Strange’s wife, was another wonderful character. She felt very real and very much like someone I would want as a friend. Her patience with her husband was truly astonishing sometimes, but never felt too strained.

In general, I really enjoyed this book. It’s huge, and I found that bothersome at first, but the style and length of the story feel perfect once you get into it. It also never felt long, it was always fun to sit down and read. I recommend this book, but only to those with patience and arm strength!

New Website Section

In the past week or so this website has had a lot of work done on it, but hopefully none of that has been evident at all! Anyway, Michael changed some things so that the website would be easier for me to work on and add to and it took some time to change the whole site over to the new system. Today I finished that and I started a new section of the website that I have been planning for quite some time.

This should come as no shock to anyone, but the new section is all about books! There is a link to it on the sidebar now. It can be found Here and I hope that you check it out. The Favorite First Sentences page has been moved to the new book page. There is also a page with Book News, two pages of my thoughts and reviews of specific books, a page of my Thoughts on Books and a page of Book Related Links (some of which used to be in the sidebar, but have now been moved to the new page).

I want to draw particular attention today to my newest review, which can be found on the Non-Fiction page. It is about The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim, a really good book about the psychological importance of fairy tales. It’s one of my favorite books and I hope that people read what I have to say about it!

From now on, when I add something to that page it will either be posted here as well or a link to it will be posted here (that way it’s easy for me to tell you when things are added). I’m excited about this new section and hope that it works out well!

New Peter Pan Author

Ok, a short while ago I posted about the intended sequel for Peter and Wendy by J. M. Barrie. If you missed that post about my thoughts on the whole idea, it’s Here. It’s a rather long rant, just so you know.

Anyway, the author has been announced. Her name is Geraldine McCaughrean. She has written a large number of books, many of them for children. Many of them are focused on mythology. I don’t recognize her name, but she has apparently won a number of awards for her children’s books. I plan to go check out some of her work (probably starting with her award-winners) and I’ll post about what I think!

The working title of the book is Captain Pan, which I don’t like very much, and I know that Captain Hook is a character in it, which will involve some interesting reworking of the end of Peter and Wendy when the crocodile gets him. We’ll see what she comes up with. I hope that she does well, but I am still very nervious about it. I’ll let you all know what I find!

Narnia Trailer Released!

The trailer for the new movie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis was released today. It’s going to appear during The Magical World of Disney tonight on ABC as well as on the Disney Channel and a few other networks. It is not up on the Official Movie Site yet, but is supposed to be there on May 11. The official site is not the best place to go for news, but they do have some cool features about how the sets and stuff were done. I found it worth a look. That said, I get most of my Narnia news from NarniaWeb.com. They have the trailer up. It’s worth watching, but it made me even more nervious about the movie than I was. I’m excited to see the movie, I adore the Narnia books, but a lot of the characters and stuff just don’t look right to me. And that bothers me. I guess that happens with most movies, though, so I’ll have to deal! Anyway, check out the new trailer (NarniaWeb has screenshots and other cool stuff too)!

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